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Difference Between OCI and PIO


Indians who are living outside their country of origin are often confused about what type of card to get: OCI or PIO? When choosing between the two, it is important to understand what the abbreviation stands for in order to determine what qualification a person falls into.

There are actually three distinctions being used for individuals living outside India: NRI, PIO, and OCI. However, “NRI” which stands for “Non-resident Indian” is pretty easy to understand because of its clearcut qualifications. What most people find confusing is the distinction between the PIO and OCI labels.

To start off, PIO and OCI are accessible to individuals who have held an Indian passport or had parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents that were born and are permanent residents of the said country. Individuals who came from territories that became a part of India are also eligible for a PIO or OCI card provided that they are not at any time citizens of specific locations including Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.

The main differences between PIO and OCI, therefore, is their requirements for eligibility. PIO has a much broader aspect covering as far back as four generations while OCI is limited. Basically, a person is eligible for PIO if he or she is of Indian origin but a citizen of another country, has parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents that were born and are permanently residing in India. The foreign spouse of an Indian citizen is also eligible for a PIO.

On the other hand, OCI only extends as far back as the grandparents. A foreign spouse is also not included in the eligibility.

Do not confuse the PIO card from a PIO. The latter refers to a person while a PIO card is the document provided to the PIO for travel.

PIO and OCI Cards

The use of PIO and OCI cards are also vastly different from each other with the OCI having access to more perks. Basically, a PIO card holder allows travel from and to India without the need for a visa. This is valid for 15 years and is subject to various policies depending on the holder’s intended length of stay in the country. For example, if you are going to stay in India for more than 180 days in a single visit, then it is necessary to contact the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer or the Foreigners Registration Officer within 30 days of the 180-day expiration.

On the other hand, an OCI card is valid for as long as the holder is alive. He or she can also stay in India for as long as possible without the need to report to authorities. Both OCI and PIO holders can open up a rupee bank account in India, lend money, or have investments in the country. PIO card holders who want to become Indian citizens would have to be ordinarily a resident of India for seven years while OCI card holders need to wait five years and have stayed in the country for one year minimum. When applying for the card itself, an OPI would usually take two to four weeks to process while an OCI can run for as long as three to four months.

Other than those key differences, OCI and PIO basically provide the same perks and restrictions to holders. Ideally, individuals who are thinking about whether to apply for OCI or PIO should consider their future plans regarding their stay in the country as well as their eligibility status.


1.PIO covers self, parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and spouse while OCI only covers self, parents, and grandparents.

2.OCI has no set limit of days staying in the country while PIO requires contacting the officials with 180 days of residing in the country.

3.PIO lasts for 15 years; OCI lasts a lifetime.

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